Goal setting: letting the children take responsibility.
With the UK now coming into their fourth week of lock down I’m finding that our two Coffee Beans are really starting to get very irritable, very quickly! With that said I thought I’d try something with them this week that I used to do with the children in my class, except I’d adapt it for at home.
Goal setting in the classroom
Teachers are always trying to get children to achieve new targets and goals but when you have a younger age class the tricky part is always ‘How do you do this?’ I used to teach 5 and 6 year olds and at that age they’re reading is coming along, but for most it's still not at the stage where you can give them a written target in a book and hope they read it.
Firstly, if they look back at their last piece of work to even bother to see if there is a target there then you’re in luck. Children generally live in the present and the future and what’s happened in the past in their school book is not something of importance to them!
Secondly, if they can't read the target then that also poses a problem. Most won’t even bother to read instructions if they are printed in a clear computer font, let alone if it's written in the teachers handwriting from where they were marking the work!
The best way I found to get children to achieve their targets was by giving them the chance to own them themselves, by letting them choose their own goals. Obviously with some adult guidance to ensure they’re suitable and small enough that they can be achieved but I'd would let the child take the lead. Most children are well aware of what they need to improve on but don’t always actively think about it. I'd also create extra ownership by making them write their own goal to display somewhere in the classroom. This is one less job for you to have to do and makes it more effective for the children so it’s a winning situation on all sides!
The children in my class used to have a ‘Goal sheet’ and on it they would write one goal that they wanted to achieve. The goal would be something simple like using full stops, using capital letters, spelling ‘the’ correctly, writing my numbers the right way round etc. it could be anything really. Then there was always a space for them to draw a picture, so that even if they couldn’t read what they had written they could at least remember from the picture.
Once the goals were written I would give each child a piece of blu-tack.
N.B. I can hear teachers and probably parents screaming ‘You willingly gave them blu-tack?’ If you have never encountered a child + blu-tack situation let me explain! For lots of children its like an addictive drug that entices them in ‘I must have some, I must have some.’ Many a time have I been doing my whole class teaching when a display mysteriously falls off the wall and on closer inspection the discovery is usually always the same. It’s because little fingers have gradually picked away so much blu-tack that what's left can no longer hold up your display and stuff comes crashing down. Blu-tack for some reason (I have no idea why) creates great excitement and if you give it to 30 kids on mass that is a sight to behold!
The children would then stick their goal sheet up in the classroom somewhere, pretty much anywhere they wanted. My classroom used to be adorned with them and apart from the odd child who wanted to stick theirs to my board or on the bin I was pretty relaxed with wherever else they wanted to display them. Each time they achieved their goal I would give them a sticker. Not a special sticker just one of those basic coloured sticky dots you get and they would stick it to their sheet. What is it with kids and stickers? Even the promise of a basic sticky dot to a small child is like Christmas is coming early! When they got 3 stickers we'd say they'd achieved it and at this point they used to get 10 house points as that was the whole school awards system. As a bonus this worked well for me since I was always terrible at generally remembering to give house points out!
There was, however, one main rule to the goal sheet. The deal was that I as the teacher wasn’t responsible for it. If they wanted to get the sticker and the house points then it was on them. They had to remember to show it to me along with their work so that they could get their sticker.
Children are amazing at wanting to achieve and those who forgot would be dragged along by their peers encouraging them to remember. I’ve seen a child be waiting to show me their work and then change their mind. They’ve gone and taken their goal off the wall and re-read and edited their writing to make sure it had full stops in before they showed it to me, to ensure they got their sticker. If that’s not taking learning into their own hands then I really don’t know what is!
As a teacher it’s not always possible to mark everything whilst the child is stood next to you but it also didn’t take long for it to become ‘a thing’ where the kids who hadn’t had their work marked would decide to stick their goal to it so that they didn’t miss out on a sticker. I used to open exercise books and it would be stuck with the blu-tack on top of the work I was going to mark so I couldn’t miss it. Kids really are ingenious at finding ways of getting what they want!
When they’d achieved one goal they would set a new one, writing a new sheet and displaying it somewhere. Unlike other things that you try in a primary classroom this one used to continue throughout the year and the children never really tired of wanting to push themselves forward and taking responsibility for their own learning.
Goal setting at home.
With all this being so positive in the classroom I thought I might try it at home with the Coffee Beans except not with necessarily educational goals but just general ones that will help us get through the lock down. I might even do one myself and I know exactly what mine will say, ‘Remember to clean the boys teeth in the morning.’ Totally out of my usual routine it's Mr. OMC who everyday practically has to ask, 'Have they done their teeth yet?' because I just keep forgetting. Without routine, I find remembering things really difficult!
So today I’m going to let the Coffee Beans choose their goals but heres a few ideas if you want some to get you started and to ‘guide’ your children in the right direction.
For the 3 year old:
* To stay in my own room at rest hour (if you haven’t read my post on rest hour here’s the link, it's a must read for parents! https://www.overamorningcoffee.co.uk/post/rest-hour-a-must-for-parents )
* To try and wipe my own bottom rather than shouting for Mummy and Daddy (he still refuses!)
* To try and use my words rather than crying (he’s started doing this constantly recently)
* To get dressed independently (he’s become less independent since lockdown, so this would be a good start)
For the 6 year old
* To learn to make my own sandwiches at lunchtime
* To learn how to stand on my skateboard and not give up straight away
* To listen, rather than talk over people
* To read a story to my little brother
I might also make them do these more than 3 times (maybe 5) whilst we’re at home just so that they actually have to work at it!
Once they’ve achieved them obviously I won’t be giving out house points so I’m going to have to think about how to create a good prize to work for suitable for home. I’m thinking maybe things like
· A milkshake of their choice complete with a straw (it’s the straw that makes it!)
· 10 minutes extra stay up time to watch TV before bed
· Their choice of what to have for dinner (from a given selection of course!)
or maybe even
· breakfast in bed.
Whatever it ends up being it has got to be something simple and manageable, that we already have in the house and thats not going to cost us anything either!
If you’re in need of something to help with goal setting either in the classroom or at home then this is a really simple way of achieving it and to make it even easier here’s a template that you are welcome to print off and use to get you started!
It's an A4 word document but I used to print it half size 2 to a sheet.